REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: Eye witnesses claim ‘unusual’ movement of Israeli missiles

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By Aaron Klein

JERUSALEM — Multiple eyewitnesses reported seeing Israeli military trucks in recent days transport and station large missiles at the periphery of Jerusalem and in locations inside the West Bank.

The descriptions of the projectiles are consistent with the Jewish state’s mid-to-long range Jericho ballistic missiles.

The missile movement, if confirmed, would be considered unusual.

One of the eyewitnesses was a member of the Palestinian Authority security services. He claimed to me that a large missile was stationed five days ago near Neve Yaacov, a Jewish neighborhood in northeast Jerusalem. That neighborhood is adjacent to several Palestinian-inhabited towns.

Four other eyewitnesses, Israeli and Palestinian, reported seeing similar sights during the past week – large missiles being transported by the Israeli military at the periphery of Jerusalem and in the West Bank.

Reached for comment, the spokesperson’s unit of the Israel Defense Forces could not confirm the information, referring me instead to Israel’s national police.

Mickey Rosenfeld, the national police spokesperson here, told me today he has no information on any such movements.

Apparently, I’m not the only reporter to receive such reports.

Rosenfeld said another foreign correspondent contacted him earlier today for comment on the same matter.

The PA security member, speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated the missiles were related to a possible Israeli offensive against Iran.  He commented that such missiles were offensive in nature, and usually not meant to serve as defensive posture.

While the possibility of an attack on Iran cannot be immediately discounted, there are several other scenarios that make some sense:

1) It’s possible such missile transport is part of an internal military drill or to test various locations for the future deployment of projectiles.

The drill, however, would not include test firings. Such testing is almost always conducted at a military base and usually involves one missile fired from one location.  Any such test is difficult to keep under wraps.

Earlier this month, the IDF did test fire a long-range ballistic missile, believed to be a Jericho III, at the country’s Palmachim Air & Space test center. Israel’s Ministry of Defense confirmed the test was successful, indicating the purpose of the launch was the testing of a new advanced propulsion system.

Jericho III’s are believed to be guided by radar and reportedly give Israel nuclear strike capabilities within the entire Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia and almost all parts of North America, as well as within large parts of South America and North Oceania.

2) Any missile placement could be related to the unstable situation in Syria, including fears of a future NATO military campaign there that could have ramifications for Israel, such as firing of missiles into the Jewish state by Syria or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Just yesterday, in an unprecedented move against a fellow Arab nation, the Arab League approved economic sanctions on Syria to pressure Damascus to end its suppression of an 8-month-old uprising against Assad’s regime.

Arab League diplomats, speaking last week to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that if Syria does not adhere to its demands for immediate reform, the organization will work to unify Syrian opposition groups into a coalition similar to that of Libya’s National Transitional Council.

A next step, the diplomats said, would be to recognize the opposition as the sole representative of the Syrian people in a move that would symbolically isolate the Assad’s regime.

The moves mimic the diplomatic initiatives taken to isolate Muammar Gadhafi’s regime before the NATO campaign in Libya.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned in an interview with a U.K. newspaper earlier this month that foreign intervention in Syria would cause an “earthquake” across the region and create another Afghanistan, while directly threatening the Jewish state.

Assad reportedly made similar comments in a meeting in early October with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmad Davutoglu.

He was quoted stating, “If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need not more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv.”

Assad also reportedly warned that “all these events will happen in three hours, but in the second three hours, Iran will attack the U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and the U.S. and European interests will be targeted simultaneously.”

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